After the disappointment of the last couple of years, it’s finally Christmas present. So do yourself a favour – get the gang back together, pull up a pew and roll back the years…
It’s been three long years since we could comfortably look forward to the prospect of catching up with friends over a swift half and a bite or two in some of Dublin’s best quality establishments. So we’ve made some space in our diaries for ambling into town at least once over the next few weeks to savour a restorative beverage or two with some old pals during the Season.
Because this time of year is often as much about nostalgia as making new memories, our selection of classic Dublin snugs, saloons and bars features the accommodating hostelries that have featured prominently in our collective Christmas pasts. It’s fair to say that each more than meets the mark when it comes to providing a welcoming winter ambience for large groups, as well as serving as an ideal setting for those intense one-on-ones with that significant somebody you haven’t seen in an absolute age. In addition to a fine selection of bevvies, many do food too, as well as offering hot cuppas and sparking minerals for those pacing themselves or avoiding the gargle all together in the lead up to the big day.
So, in no particular order, our picks are as follows…
Our old favourite is the ideal spot for a swift half and bit of special toastie sustenance to brighten up even the bleakest of these short mid-winter days. At this time of year it’s likely that you’ll find yourself in the company of regulars and sentimental ex-pats settling in for a mid-afternoon trip down memory lane. Which begs the question, if you remember the beginning of a boozy afternoon here, can you remember the end?
The exterior of the Swan recently got itself some brand new yellow livery, having been decked out in a generous new coat of paint during recent conservation works overseen by Lotts Architecture. As our friends at Dublin Civic Trust so brilliantly put it, the inspired colour choice succeeds in introducing ‘a blast of Roman sunshine to Dublin’s Aungier Street’.
Thanks to a slightly older makeover by Thomas F. O’Reilly in 1897, the Swan’s interior remains distinctly Victorian in character, while gastro hosts Fab Food Trails often pause here during their walking tours to offer some insight into some of the finest food the city has to offer. If you’re lucky, they may swing by during your sojourn there, offering some tasty tit-bits to help inform your subsequent chat in the bar.
The spacious Chatham Lounge offers an oasis of calm just off Grafton Street. Get there early enough and there’s time for a bit of quality banter with the hospitable bar staff before grabbing a stool at the bar, or commandeering the snug for a conspiratorial evening chin-wag. We can confirm that this is the perfect location to fuel your indulgence for ‘doing a Maeve’, the practice of eavesdropping on the disclosures of the inhabitants at the next table that informed large chunks of the prolific output of the writer and journalist Maeve Binchy. We never tire of raising a glass to her here.
The interior of the Stag’s has frequently been known to offer splendid daytime isolation, and never more so than at this time of year. Get your timing right and you could be topping up your levels of bonhomie in the comfort of the Victorian snug with just the resident fox for company. In addition to a great selection of beverages, there’s also a substantial bar menu to be enjoyed here throughout the day.
The many subcultures of the city have been known to converge on the Stag’s on the night of the 23rd, as many of those who boozed here over the years return to pay their annual respects. It always makes for an interesting crowd, and you never know who you might run into.
The Long Hall, South Great George’s Street, Dublin 2
This warm and inviting Dublin hostelry has charm and tradition in spades, making it the ideal spot to raise a glass to “This Old Town”. Step inside, park yourself at the window seat and watch the city’s world go by. Have one for Philo while you’re at it.
Wander into Kehoe’s and you’ll find yourself transported back in time to 1803, the year this beautiful establishment first began to ply its trade on South Anne Street. From the front entrance via the old grocery and snug bar, to the saloon bar and brace of ante-rooms, enjoy a chat in the buzzy Victorian surroundings over a glass or two, as pints and chasers take centre stage on the beautiful mahogany bar.
Step across the threshold of The Palace Bar and savour the atmospheric emporium frequented by many of Dublin’s literary stalwarts. We’ve heard it said that one particular writer, was able to honour a promise to his mother to never again touch a drink in the Palace Bar by ensuring that he always had a glove on his hand when reaching across the counter for his beverage of choice.
The most coveted spot there is the snug located just inside the door, where many of the city’s literary figures can still be heard philosophising. The Palace also boasts an incredible array of whiskeys, perfect for the all important chaser to accompany those solid pints of stout.
In time honoured tradition, early birds heading to their native West for the Christmas have the luxury of fortifying themselves for the cross country journey ahead with a swift half in Ryans. We’re reliably informed that the pleasure involved is only slightly mitigated by the searing pain of the inevitable dash across the road to catch that all-important last train from Heuston.
As the city empties of most of its regular inhabitants on Christmas Eve, remaining Dubliners have earned the right to imbibe a nice, warming bevvie in the cheery environs of The Dawson Lounge. Once there, they’ll get to enjoy the city’s smallest hostelry for a brief hour or two before heading to the ‘burbs for last orders in the local.
The Lord Edward is a great place for meeting friends and having drinks at any time of year, but for us this is very much the place to be on New Year’s Eve, where you’ll have a bird’s eye view of the crowds heading to Christchurch for the bells heralding the advent of the year ahead.
And finally… an honourable mention to Mulligan’s, which we realise technically pushes this list to 11.
We will also be there (a lot) in the coming weeks.